Kevin Welner: Reformers, Please Stop Making Excuses for NAEP Scores!

Diane Ravitch's blog

Kevin Welner, executive director of the National Education Policy Center at the University of Colorado, has advice for the test-loving reformers: Stop making excuses!

For the past 15 years or more, a passel of organizations have pushed test-based accountability; they never met a test they didn’t like and they used test scores to bash teachers and American public education. They ARE the status quo. They own the U.S. Department of Education. Their views are backed by federal law, the No Child Left Behind Act, and by the billions handed out by the federal Race to the Top. They have had the admiration and financial support of Bill Gates, Eli Broad, the Walton family, and dozens of other philanthropic (testophilic) foundations. Their theory was simple: More testing will produce higher achievement; test scores can be used to weed out bad teachers; test scores can be used to fire teachers and principals…

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2 thoughts on “Kevin Welner: Reformers, Please Stop Making Excuses for NAEP Scores!

  1. Here is part of my response to a media interview regarding my feelings as to why NAEP scores went down and my conclusion why that occurred. Very simply put Markell’s, Arnie’s, RODEL’s, Gates’, and all of the other (for personal profit) “education reformists” have foisted a failed system on our children with a horribly harmful result under the guise of a “common core” system that is ruining America’s and Delaware’s public education structure and willfully hurting children. Brief statement follows:
    Scores down for NAEP
    They’ve changed the curriculum. When they are now teaching algebra and geometry (under common core) in 3rd grade what are they not teaching or no longer teaching. If kids don’t truly understand and know multiplication, how are they going to perform the higher level skills required?
    The NAEP is a generalized test given to kids all over the world. It is a consistent and reliable measure of comparison. You can’t “study” for it. So when we look at countries that do well (i.e. Finland/New Zealand) and see that their curriculums are nothing like what we have just adopted/imposed we should ask “what are we doing”?
    Common Core is not a curriculum but it is so specific in its standards that it becomes a de-facto curriculum. Covering those prescribed “standards” forces teachers to teach only those skills. This presents two significant problems. There is no time for anything else and teachers are being handed a curriculum and much like the “Balanced Assessment Test”, it is being written (and profited from) by the same people who wrote common core who are (in most cases) not qualified teachers in these fields.

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  2. Student Scores in Reading and Math Drop

    U.S. News & World Report

    Lauren Camera2 hrs ago

    © Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post/Getty Images Average math and reading scores declined from 2013 to 2015, according to a report released Wednesday known as the Nation’s Report Card.

    After years of tumultuous change in the country’s K-12 education landscape, student performance in math and reading has dropped.

    Average math scores for students in grades four and eight and the average reading score for eighth -graders declined from 2013 to 2015, according to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, also known as the Nation’s Report Card. The average reading score for students in grade four was unchanged over the two-year period.

    And achievement gaps between white students and minorities and poor students and their wealthier peers remained unchanged compared to 2013.

    The drop in proficiency, which is a first-time occurrence in math since the test was first administered in 1990, comes after a series of years in which the country experienced gains in math and reading on NAEP. “This isn’t a pattern that we saw coming, and in that sense, it was an unexpected downturn.” “Inasmuch as we’ve never seen a decline in math, it was unexpected decline,” said Peggy Carr, the acting commissioner of the National Center for Education Statistics, the research arm of the Department of Education that analyzes the NAEP results.

    However, Carr was quick to caution against drawing hard conclusions as to why scores fell or characterizing the lackluster results as a downward trend.

    “We don’t know whether the changes are long term,” she said. “I think we need to be cautious and exercise a little bit of judgement and wait to see what will happen in 2017.”

    NAEP is administered to a nationally representative sample of students about every two years.

    The results come at a time when the majority of states are making or have recently made big changes to their education systems. More than 40 states are using new, more rigorous standards and new state assessments, and a majority of states have increased their numbers of charter schools and tackled turning around their worst schools.

    The executive director of National Assessment Governing Board, William Bushaw, said the variety of education policies being used across states could be to blame for the drop in scores, especially states shifting curriculum to better align with new Common Core state standards.

    “It’s not unusual when you see lots of different things happening in classrooms to see a dip [in scores],” he said. “We are not going to suggest any cause and effect at all, but there are multiple ways to look at this.”

    In addition, the NAEP results come on the heels of a study from the American Institute of Research that found that the test has some overlap with the Common Core in math, but that it falls short on assessing some of the standards.

    “We should not assume the Common Core has been evenly or consistently implemented in the country,” Carr said when asked about the study. “And there is nothing in that report that speaks directly to what the impact might be on [NAEP] scores themselves.”

    Bushaw noted that the governing board will consider whether it should alter the NAEP to better reflect the type of standards students are transitioning to – though he cautioned that the test is not designed to align with any particular set of standards and that the test needs to remain somewhat consistent in order to show accurate trend lines.

    The new round of NAEP results come at a precarious time for the Obama administration, which for the last six-plus years has been pushing states to make many of the difficult policy changes through competitive grants, like Race to the Top, and conditional waivers from No Child Left Behind, the current version of the federal K-12 law.

    In 2013, when the last round of NAEP results was announced, the administration cheered the increasing scores, especially in places like Tennessee and the District of Columbia – both Race to the Top winners that proved to be the fastest-improving education systems in the country.

    This time around, however, there’s not much to cheer about.

    While the District of Columbia continued to improve, Tennessee students flat-lined along with most states in the country. And Maryland, which won $250 million in Race to the Top funds, saw the biggest declines, including a nine-point drop in reading for students in grade four and a six-point drop in reading for students in grade eight.

    “Obviously the news from this round isn’t great, but it also doesn’t come as a big surprise,” Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said. “I’ve said on a number of occasions that we should expect scores to bounce around some. This is really hard work and big change rarely happens overnight.”

    In the case of Maryland, Duncan explained, the state recently began including students with disabilities in its accountability system, which he said was the main reason for its significant drop in scores.

    “As counterintuitive as this might seem, we actually think that’s good news,” Duncan said. “They should be credited for that instead of criticized.”

    Duncan agreed that the governing board should consider better aligning NAEP with what students are learning.

    “It’s probably a conversation that’s worthy of having,” he said.

    Also complicating the landscape, he offered, is the increasing diversity of the country’s school system, where minority children are now the majority, and the numbers of students still learning English continue increasing.

    “Are public schools becoming more diverse,” Duncan asked. “Absolutely. Is that a piece of the puzzle? It’s probably a piece of it.”

    Overall, however, Duncan cautioned against leaning on any one analysis until researchers are able to dig deeper into the data, and he continued stressing that the types of education changes states are adopting or have adopted will take decades to bear fruit.

    The secretary also emphasized that the NAEP scores should be considered alongside other metrics, including graduation rates, which NCES recently predicted are on the rise .

    In early reaction to the scores, the executive director of the Council of Chief State School Officers, Chris Minnich, noted that states are still adjusting to many of the major education changes adopted in recent years.

    “Today’s NAEP results confirms that there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure that our young people are ready for success in college, careers and life,” he said in a statement in which he also touted the early graduation rate data. “We know things will not change overnight. While NAEP is just one measure, it continues to be an important measure that states use to compare across states and over time.”

    At least one of the national teachers unions, the American Federation of Teachers, said the drop in NAEP scores is a testament that the administration’s education agenda, paired with scarce federal dollars, is hurting students.

    “The big promises made when Congress passed No Child Left Behind and when this administration introduced Race to the Top have gone unfulfilled,” said AFT president Randi Weingarten. “Not only is there plenty of anecdotal evidence that our kids have suffered, these latest NAEP scores again show that the strategy of testing and sanctioning, coupled with austerity, does not work.”

    In the coming months, education policy analysts will dig into the data and likely find several reasons for the drop in scores. For now, Carr and others said, folks shouldn’t rush to conclusions.

    “One downturn does not a trend make, and that’s what we’re comfortable in saying about this data,” she said.

    Copyright 2015 U.S. News & World Report

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